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Stars end Hurricanes’ franchise-record point streak, deliver hit to slim playoff chances

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) With no playoffs to look forward to, the Dallas Stars are stuck being spoilers. They just wish they didn’t have so much experience in that role.

Jason Spezza scored, Kari Lehtonen earned his third shutout of the season and Dallas beat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 on Saturday night.

John Klingberg and Devin Shore added empty-netters and Lehtonen stopped 25 shots in his second shutout in six starts to help the Stars snap a two-game losing streak and deal a serious blow to the Hurricanes’ already slim playoff chances.

“We knew how hungry they were,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “The only thing we can do is be spoilers, take some pride in how we play.”

Cam Ward stopped 21 shots for Carolina, which fell six points behind Boston for the East’s final playoff spot with six games left. Both the Hurricanes and Islanders also are two points behind Tampa Bay.

The Stars, who earned a Western Conference-best 109 points last year, will miss the postseason for the seventh time in nine years. After putting Carolina in an even tougher spot, they’ll now try to make things difficult for the Lightning on Sunday night.

The Hurricanes failed to earn a point for the first time since losing at Colorado on March 7 – a club-record stretch of 13 straight games with either a win or an overtime loss. They fell to 2-4-2 against the bottom four teams in the Western Conference: Dallas, Vancouver, Arizona and Colorado.

“It wasn’t easy to take, obviously,” forward Jordan Staal said. “We’ve played some great hockey and given ourselves a chance. … We thought we could stick with it and kind of find a way. We had a few chances. Tonight, it didn’t go in, and it hurts. It’s been a fun ride.”

Dallas scored more than two goals for just the third time since March 6 in earning just its 12th road win of the season. Only Arizona (11) and Colorado (nine) have fewer among teams in the West – though both of them, like the Stars, earned victories in Raleigh.

“You just try to win games, and obviously, if we win two games on the road now, it doesn’t make up for the losses we had earlier in the year,” Spezza said. “All you can do is play the ones ahead of you.”

Carolina, which scored an NHL-best 54 goals in March, was shut out for the first time since a 4-0 loss to Toronto on Feb. 19.

“I thought everything was a grind,” coach Bill Peters said. “Everything seemed hard. Everything was a split-second late or in the feet offensively. I didn’t think we executed as well as we have here recently, but a lot of (that) was due to the fact that they were above us and they had puck pressure.”

Spezza scored the game’s first goal 4:46 into the second with a wrist shot from the circle that beat Ward high to his glove side – a score that was nearly identical to Jack Johnson‘s goal two nights earlier. That gave Spezza 19 career goals against the Hurricanes.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes missed a prime chance earlier in the game and it might have set the tone for the rest of the game.

Dallas – and its league-worst penalty-kill unit – drew a minor midway through the first, but the Hurricanes came up empty on a 3-on-nobody rush after a pass misfired near Lehtonen after they caught the Stars on a line change.

“I think we might have gone to the bench a little slowly there,” Lehtonen said. “I was expecting him to pass, and it’s good that he did. … I thought 2-and-0, 3-and-0, there was going to be some passing, and they did, so I was just getting ready for that. I think it just bounced a little bit, and that was that.”

DeBoer praises ‘courageous’ Thornton for playing with torn ACL, MCL (Updated)

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In a fairly stunning admission on Monday, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters that Joe Thornton played in four of San Jose’s six playoff games versus Edmonton with a significant knee injury.

Thornton, who was hurt against Vancouver late in the regular season, suffered tears to both his left MCL and ACL.

“I’ve never seen a guy play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s a courageous effort as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton, 37, missed the first two games of the series to rest his knee, before suiting up for the final four. He averaged 18:50 TOI per night and finished with a pair of assists, numbers that are pretty remarkable given the severity of his ailment.

Jumbo wasn’t the only unhealthy Shark during the first-round playoff ouster. Logan Couture‘s face/mouth injury was well-documented and, today, DeBoer also revealed that Tomas Hertl was playing with a broken foot, and Patrick Marleau with a broken thumb.

Looking ahead, Thornton’s knee injury might cloud what’s an already murky future. He’s a pending UFA, and there have been no clear signals from the organization on how they’ll address his potential return. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported in January the Thornton camp was looking for a three-year deal.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Sharks GM Doug Wilson has time on his side. It’s understood the club probably wouldn’t act on an extension for Thornton until after the June expansion draft, which could give the Sharks enough time to better gauge his health.

Update:

Per NBC Sports California, Wilson confirmed Thornton is undergoing surgery today to repair the ligaments.

 

 

Online bookmaker: Caps are Stanley Cup favorites

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The Washington Capitals got a bit of a scare in the first round, but they’ll go into the second round as the Stanley Cup favorites.

Per online bookmaker Bovada, here is the full list of Stanley Cup odds for the eight remaining teams:

Washington Capitals   7/2
Pittsburgh Penguins    17/4
Anaheim Ducks             11/2
Edmonton Oilers          11/2
St. Louis Blues              13/2
Nashville Predators     7/1
New York Rangers       8/1
Ottawa Senators           10/1

The Chicago Blackhawks entered the postseason as 4/1 Cup favorites at Bovada. Of course, the ‘Hawks were then swept by the Preds, who’ve gone from 25/1 long shots to 7/1 heading into their series with the Blues.

The Caps’ odds actually dropped to 13/2 after they fell behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1. But three straight wins, two in overtime, clinched them a spot against the Penguins in the second round.

The Ottawa Senators are the long shots of the bunch now, despite having home-ice advantage over the Rangers in the second round.

Isles bring back Seidenberg — one year, $1.25 million

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The Islanders saw enough from Dennis Seidenberg this season to bring him back for another.

On Monday, the club announced it had signed the veteran defenseman to a one-year deal. Per Newsday, it’s for $1.25 million — a slight raise from the $1M he earned this season.

Seidenberg, 35, caught on with the Isles in late September, parlaying a good showing with Team Europe at the World Cup into a contract after going the entire summer unsigned.

For New York, it worked out very well.

Seidenberg was a regular lineup fixture, averaging 19:26 TOI over 73 games. He also provided some good production from the back end, scoring five goals and 22 points — his highest offensive output in five years.

Today’s deal also gives the Isles some flexibility when it comes to the upcoming expansion draft. The club now has six blueliners under contract for next season — Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Thomas Hickey and Scott Mayfield — and a seventh, pending RFA Calvin de Haan, will (presumably) be locked in as well. The same might be said of fellow RFA Adam Pelech.

Young d-man Ryan Pulock, who only appeared in one game this year, locked in through 2018.

Cassidy ‘absolutely’ wants to return as Bruins’ head coach

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To nobody’s surprise, Bruce Cassidy is on board with shedding his interim tag and becoming Boston’s full-time bench boss.

“Absolutely,” Cassidy said of coming back, following the Bruins’ opening-round playoff loss to Ottawa (per CBS Boston). “One hundred percent.”

One would think the 51-year-old did enough to warrant a longer look. After replacing Claude Julien in early February, Cassidy led a team on the fringes of the playoff picture to an 18-8-1 record down the stretch, and a third-place finish in the Atlantic Division.

Yes, the B’s fell short against the Sens, but were hamstrung by a depleted lineup missing the likes of Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo. Top center David Krejci was also extremely limited, missing three of six games to injury.

When further asked about his future, Cassidy tapped the brakes on predicting what will happen, or what changes the team needed for next season.

“Well, now we’re making a lot of assumptions,” he said. “That will be determined going forward by management. It’s a tough question to answer.”

Cassidy’s time with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence, and his history working with young players, may certainly help his cause. A few of his guys — Austin Czarnik, Frank Vatrano, Tommy Cross, Noel Acciari — forged out roles with the big club this season, while other youngsters certainly made an impact in the playoffs.

Prized d-man prospect Charlie McAvoy was a central figure on defense, and one of Cassidy’s more notable lineup moves — putting Sean Kuraly in for Games 5 and 6 — gave the club a boost of energy.

That said, the B’s do have options on the coaching front.

There are a number of experienced bench bosses available. Lindy Ruff, Darryl Sutter and Jack Capuano — a former teammate of Sweeney’s, it should be mentioned — are just a few of the higher profile free agents out there. It’s unclear if Boston is interested in going this route, however. Cassidy has been with the organization a long time, going on eight seasons, and has certainly paid his dues.